by Momar Visaya/AJPress
The urban region of New York and New Jersey has become the primary settlement of Filipino Americans in the Northeast region through the years. From Queens to Rockland in New York and from Hudson to Bergen in New Jersey, Filipinos abound. According to the Census, there are almost 200,000 Filipinos in this region. Yet, despite the ever-increasing population, there is only a handful of Filipinos appointed or elected in both states.
Michael Angulo, the highest-ranking Filipino American in the state of New Jersey, is one of them. In 2004, he was appointed by then Governor Jim McGreevey to serve as Executive Director of the New Jersey Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HES AA). “It’s getting lonely here. Despite our strong numbers, we are not visible in the state level,” Angulo told the Asian Journal. As the top guy in the agency that administers New Jersey’s student financial aid programs, Angulo makes sure that HES AA deliver over $1.5 billion annually in grants, scholarships and student loans, and administer a total portfolio of over $4.5 billion.He oversees a staff of 200 employees, and is responsible for all governmental, legal, fiscal, operational, marketing, personnel, and strategic decisions for the Authority. HES AA assists over 1 million constituents with informational and financial resources each year.
Born in Cebu, Angulo immigrated to the United States with his family in 1973 when he was around four years old. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Financial Management from the Catholic University, Washington, DC in 1990. In 1994, he received a Juris Doctor from the Rutgers University School of Law.
Shortly after graduation, Angulo served as judicial clerk to the Honorable Frank M. Lario, Jr.of the Superior Court of New Jersey in Camden County. He also practiced law with a 40-lawyer firm in Pennsuaken, New Jersey. He was well on his way to becoming a partner when the opportunity to serve the public came knocking. “I took a pay cut when I accepted the job offer. Back then, I knew that I wanted to pursue public service not because of the money but because I wanted to serve,” he shared.
Angulo served as Assistant Counsel to the Governor of New Jersey from January 2002 through July 2004. His responsibilities with the Office of Chief Counsel included monitoring legal, legislative, regulatory, and policy issues impacting the departments of banking and insurance, personnel, consumer affairs, higher education, labor, and military and veterans’ affairs.
When the executive director of HESAA resigned, then Gov. McGreevey plucked him from the Governor’s Counsel Office and appointed him to head the organization.
“As a close and trusted adviser, I can personally attest to how the students of New Jersey will benefit from his leadership. Michael has had a distinguished law career serving the people of New Jersey and his invaluable experience will help us expand upon the extraordinary steps we have taken to increase access to higher education for New Jersey’s students,” Gov. McGreevey said when he announced Angulo’s appointment.
“I felt humbled and honored at the opportunity to assist New Jersey students pursue their dream of attaining higher education. In this increasingly global and complex world, our highly educated workforce allows New Jersey to not only compete, but flourish, socially and economically,” Angulo recalled saying when he was given the post.
To this date, Angulo has served three New Jersey governors: McGreevey, Richard Codey, and current governor Jon Corzine. “I serve at the pleasure of the governor,” he quipped.
Currently, he is the 2007-08 President of the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey, representing the interests of over 500 New Jersey Asian American attorneys. He also serves on the Governor’s Asian Advisory Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Commission, the Higher Education Capital Planning Taskforce, and the Senior Public Institution Operating Taskforce.
He hopes to inspire the younger Filipino Americans to pursue a career in public service.
“Parents encourage their children to be professionals, as doctors, lawyers, engineers or nurses. They don’t want their kids to go into public service or politics, maybe because of the old-school mentality that view politicians as corrupt. We should stop thinking that way,” Angulo said.
He believes that Filipinos are matured and educated enough to take on the challenge of serving the people and the community.
“The positions are there, we are just not pursuing them enough,” he added.
Michael Angulo’s position as the top FilAm guy in the state level in New Jersey continues to become a source of inspiration for the community that is in dire need of more role models in the realm of politics and public service.
(Mr. Angulo is an MBA candidate at the Rutgers School of Business. He lives in Cherry Hill, New Jersey with his wife Susan and their two beautiful daughters.)